COVID-19: Delhi's Azadpur market loses half its business amid lockdown

The wholesale market in north Delhi distributes the majority of its produce to the national capital region and neighbouring states

Published: Friday 03 April 2020

Delhi’s Azadpur wholesale market — by some accounts the biggest vegetable and fruits market in Asia — registered a 50 per cent slump in business after the nationwide lockdown to curb the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to sources in the market’s agricultural produce market committee.

The nationwide lockdown has cast doubt over the functioning of the market and the loss of incomes that daily labourers and porters earn by working in the market.

Thousands of trucks reach the market everyday and bring fresh produce from across the country.

Approximately 1,912 vehicles reached the market to deliver produce to retailers, while 2,240 vehicles left the market to deliver the produce to retailers on March 20, 2020.

This number dropped to 881 vehicles delivering produce to retailers, while 1,135 vehicles left the market to distribute produce to retailers on March 26, a day after the lockdown was imposed.

The market distributes the majority of its produce to the national capital region and neighbouring states including Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Several wholesale sellers who operate out of the market said they were unable to sell produce to retailers.

Retail vendors as well were not able to reach the market, fearing police crackdowns and seizure of their vehicles, for not obtaining requisite labour passes.

Several drivers complained about the exorbitant fines they were forced to pay and demanded the passes that they could use to show to traffic police to avoid the fines.

Around 40,000 labourers in the market have lost their daily income. They would earlier earn Rs 1,000-1,500 every day before the lockdown. Their income now, however, is reduced to only Rs 50-100.

The labourers who work in the market — mostly from the unorganised sector — said this amount was insufficient to sustain their livelihoods, that include paying rent, buying cooking gas, paying electricity bills and medicines.

They want to return to their villages, but with no transportation available because of the lockdown, several labourers are forced to avoid social distancing norms and make inhuman journeys with their families, sometimes hundreds of kilometres long, by foot.

Wholesalers would soon be forced to cut down their orders, if the situation continued.

This would subsequently result in a surge in prices for fruits and vegetables.

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